We spent our Easter holidays this year on the beach in sunny West Java. We had loads of fun, and while it was a week of relaxing and taking it easy, there are still a lot of stories from our most recent adventure…
Day 1 – Sunday
We got up at 6:30 am, which gave us just enough time to have breakfast, brush teeth and sort out a few last-minute items before heading off to Pelabuhan Ratu, an area on the south coast of West Java. We were driven there by none other than the owner of the hotel, Johannes, who was really nice, and had some nice conversations for the whole way. After about 2 hours of driving through the mountains, we pulled over for a rest break at the Indonesian equivalent of motorway services. The first thing that was strange about the place was that there was a massive decommissioned airplane out the front. And it just got stranger. After using the bathroom, we went out back with the owner of the property. Out there, there were a whole bunch of caged animals, including monkeys, peacocks, wildcats, and a massive Sumatran Tiger! What the heck! There was also World’s Largest Spider dangling around, the size of my face. The whole place was just really weird. We went on our way exchanging funny looks, and wondering what was going on. After another while of driving, it got really hilly. REALLY hilly. The steepness of the roads was quite crazy, and we were relieved when it flattened out on the run up to Pelabuhan Ratu. The town was by the sea, and looked quite cool, with loads of markets and activity. But we were going another 30 minutes along the coast to Karang Aji. We got to where we were staying, Karang Aji Villa, unpacked, and had a look around. It was a really interesting place, mostly made out of scrap wood. It was quite cool, and while Papa and Rosie went with Johannes to find the way to the beach, Mama and I hung out by our room, which was a coool look-out style room, with walls made of multi-coloured plastic, and on a platform overlooking the sea. After Rosie and Papa had come back, we all walked down to the beach. The water was lovely, so Rosie and I splashed around, getting our clothes wet, before running back up to get changed into swimming stuff. There were a lot of waves, which made it really fun, and when the sun started to go down, a whole bunch of fishing boats got launched. We went up to the hotel for a shower, then wandered around looking for some supper. The problem was, no-where was open! Luckily, we found a guy who made us some noodles with vegetables, who also told us that most places closed at 5 o’clock. The noodles were delicious (Rosie and I had two bowls each), and we finished the meal with some pisang goreng (fried bananas). We wandered back quite full, buying some sweet snacks from a shop, then, after some chillaxing, we went to bed: Rosie and me on the floor on a mattress.
Day 2 – Monday
We woke up and went and had breakfast in the restaurant: toast with a fried egg, strawberry yoghurt, and a coconut. We also had this weird juice that was kind of savoury and peppery. No-one had more than two sips, and we spent a long time guessing what fruit (or vegetable) it was. We spent the rest of the morning chatting and reading in various locations, and then went to a warung (small café) down the road for lunch (minus a poorly Mama). We had a plate of rice with sauce, tofu, tempe, and an egg that had been hard-boiled then deep-fried. Delicious. We then went to the Ocean Queen, another resort, and had a chat with the manager about a few things. We also had a coconut to cleanse the palate, then went back up to the villa. After some more chillaxing, we went down to the beach for a swim. It was really nice to be swimming in warm water, rather than our freezing swimming pool! The waves were a lot bigger, and we had loads of fun either dodging them or getting wasted. After a couple of hours, we walked back up, took a shower then walked back down to the warung for some supper. We had the same thing as lunch, but with Mama, so good food and good company were in abundance. Back up at the villa, Rosie and I played our ukuleles together (Rosie is learning to play and is quite good!) and watched the boats out on the bay. Every boat has about ten lights on them to attract the fish, so when it is all dark, the entire bay lights up. Rosie and I went to sleep in our own room, as we had decided that it was a wee bit too cramped in the single room for four people.
Day 3 – Tuesday
We had breakfast at 8:30 am: toast and a fried egg, apple yoghurt, coconuts, coffee, and fruit. The fruit was what was in the juice the day before, but eaten fresh, it was really tasty. The fruit, jambu air (water apple), grows on a tree outside our house, so we’re in luck there! We chatted for ages about loads of things: a really great way to start the day. By the time the conversation ended, it was almost 1 o’clock, so we went back to the warung to have lunch. Today was slightly different: we still had rice, sauce, tempe and an egg, but instead of tofu, we had a suuuuper nice piece of tuna. We then headed down to the Ocean Queen for a coconut and a swim in their pool. After a while of relaxing in the water, we picked up 2 boogie boards and went down to the beach. There were some great waves, and it was loads of fun. I loved the thrill of riding a wave to shore, but I got wasted loads, which was also quite fun. We walked back to the villa soaked, salty and scraped up, but with huge smiles on our faces. After getting showered and changed, we walked to a different warung, owned by Popoh, the brother-in-law of our pisang goreng man. It was like the other warung, but with loads more options. I had rice with sauce, tempe, a piece of tuna, a potato cake and krupuk, a deep-fried starch cracker, all washed down with some tea. The food was delicious, and we had a nice walk through the village to get there, so we were in love with the place. After paying, we went and got an ice-cream in the village, and walked home to collapse into bed, completely wiped.
Day 4 – Wednesday
Wednesday’s breakfast consisted of toast with a fried egg, prune yoghurt (keeps you regular), jambu air, coconuts and coffee for the adults. We chatted for a while, then read sprawled out on the comfy chairs in the restaurant. After a bit, Rosie and I walked down to a small vendor and bought ourselves some gorengan (fried snacks). We got some tempe, singkong (cassava) and a sweet item which was, in essence, deep-fried banana bread! Delicious! We read for a while longer, then went down to the beach for another round of boogie boarding. The waves were a lot rougher, so it was really fun, but with a lot more epic wipeouts. Both Rosie and I lost a bit of skin from sand burns. Then it was over to Popoh’s for supper. I had the same thing as last night, but with a cake made from deep-fried fish. I also mixed in some spicy shredded coconut into my rice, which took everything to the next level. It was delicious, and was rounded off with another ice cream. A great end to another great day.
Day 5 – Thursday
Breakfast on Thursday was different from before: today we had yoghurt, coffee and coconuts as usual, but for the main dish, we had nasi goreng, with watermelon on the side! A great way to start the day. We read and chatted for a while longer, then walked down to the Ocean Queen, picking up some snacks en route. Rosie and I had a bite to eat; then we split up: Rosie and Papa hung out at the Ocean Queen, Mama went left along the beach, and I went right. It was hot hot hot, but it was okay once I accepted the sweat river. Along the beach was really cool. There were children playing football, loads of big fishing boats, and millions of tiny fish set out on mats to dry. Pretty soon, I couldn’t go any further, so I cut up to the road and kept walking. It got shady, which was quite nice, then started going up. I stopped at a point where the road started to curve away from the beach, and sat in the shade for a couple of minutes. There was a great view, and since it was a really clear day, you could see all the way to Pelabuhan Ratu. I wandered back down and wandered along the beach back to the Ocean Queen. While we waited for Mama to come back, I had an iced lemon tea, which was suuuuper nice and read a Bill Bryson book. After a while, we went down to the beach (no boogie boards, though) and had a nice swim. Mama showed up about halfway through with a badly burned face, which was a bummer for her. It was our last swim at Karang Aji, and we made the most of it! We watched the fishing boats launch, then, after showering and changing, went back to Popoh’s for the last time. I had a feast: rice, fish, an egg, a potato cake, tempe and a krupuk, all washed down with tea. I really do love Indonesian food, and Popoh’s warung had some of the best food I have ever eaten. We said our goodbyes, then, after having a final ice cream, went over to the pisang goreng man to talk about getting transport into Pelabuhan Ratu, the details were a bit confused, but he agreed to meet us the next morning. We walked back to the villa and spent the evening getting sorted and packed. Rosie set her alarm for 7:00 am, and we went to bed.
Day 6 – Friday
We got up and had a quick breakfast of nasi goreng and watermelon, and the went down to the main road, where we were met by our pisang goreng friend. We waited around and chatted for a but, then when the bus came along, we said our goodbyes then hopped on. The bus was quite small and already almost full, so it was a bit of a squeeze with our bags. The driver couldn’t care less about running over potholes, so it was really bumpy, making it even more fun. We hopped off at the Pelabuhan Ratu Bus Terminal, and hopped on a larger bus for Bogor. The ride took a long time, as the driver was stopping a lot to eat something or buy something, but luckily, there was some… entertainment. We stopped to pick some people up, and a lady got on carrying a portable karaoke system with her. She set it up next to Papa, made a brief announcement, and started crooning. It was a combination of this-is-so-funny and what-if-this-goes-on-for-the-ntire-bus-ride. She sang two songs, passed a container around for tips, then got off. Not long after, two musicians, wielding a ukulele and a drum set made out of pipes, got on and played a couple of great songs. It was the same thing as the lady. They played two songs, collected money, then got off. As well as this, there were food vendors constantly getting on and off the bus, selling tofu, fruit, crackers, juice… you name it. A small boy across the aisle from me ate one too many pieces of tofu, and threw up. By the end, I was really stiff from sitting around for that long, and was squirming around in my seat. I think other people thought I needed the bathroom or something. We got off at Bogor after 4+ hours on the bus, and asked around for a bus to Jakarta. Turns out that it was the one leaving that second, so we had to do a mad sprint to get on it. Because we were so late, all the seats were taken, so we had to stand for the entirety of the ride, which was really fun. Another musician was on the bus, this time a solo ukulele player, belting out some great tunes. He got off at a roadside stop, and from there it was 1 hour’s plain sailing into Jakarta. We hopped off the bus at UKI (Christian University of Indonesia), the main bus stop for that route, and hopped into a taxi. Driving back into our neighbourhood of Kemang, we chatted about how great the trip was. We didn’t do that much, but that was really nice. It just gave some breathing space, and a time for relaxation in the midst of our busy lives, and nice opportunity to enjoy each others’ company more than anything else. I loved every second of our West Javan beach holiday, and most of all spending it with my great family. What a week.